Winners and losers from F1's 2024 Spanish Grand Prix

19 days ago

The quickest car on the day did not win the 2024 edition of Formula 1's Spanish Grand Prix - at least, that was the view of second-placed Lando Norris, with race winner Max Verstappen sounding more in agreement than not.

F1 - Figure 1
Photo The Race

But while that means that one of the entries in the 'Winners' column of our regular feature is very predictable, there was lots going on for all the teams in a race many believe has finally offered a more accurate snapshot of where F1's current pecking order actually stands.

Here are our winners and losers from Barcelona...

LOSER: FERRARI

While not the stinker Canada was, Ferrari's Barcelona weekend was probably just as frustrating given it debuted another decently-sized upgrade package. Much like at Imola, there was no immediate upgrade bounce.

Instead, there was a puzzling lack of speed on both Saturday and Sunday and, perhaps even more unexpectedly, a rare dispute between its drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

That's going to lead to some awkward conversations behind closed doors but there will be far greater attention on what's going wrong with its car. Or, really, less 'what's wrong?' and more 'why hasn't it gone as right as for the others?'.

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Photo The Race

Clearly the long combined high-speed corners of Barcelona still don't suit the Ferrari, just as they didn't last year, so there's reason to believe Ferrari can return to form in Austria with a far simpler corner range.

But that won't stop the team from worrying about what happens at tracks like Silverstone and Zandvoort. - Josh Suttill

WINNER: McLAREN

McLaren was half a second off pole at Barcelona last year - it was on pole this time. Then, in Norris's hands, it had the fastest car in the race.

Yeah, Barcelona has its own quirks that seemed to punish the RB20 more than the MCL60, but McLaren has now been good at Imola, good in Monaco, good in Montreal, now good here.

At this point, it is just good, more so than you could ever say at any point in the past decade. - Valentin Khorounzhiy

LOSER: ALSO McLAREN

For all the bigger-picture optimism, though, today's defeat will sting for McLaren and Norris in particular, who lamented "f***ing [up]" the start when speaking on the cooldown lap and made it clear he saw it as the difference being victory and defeat today.

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Photo The Race

McLaren otherwise executed the race very well, and gave Norris a shot, but there was no overcoming that start-conditioned first stint, especially given the ease with which Verstappen cleared Russell at the start compared to how much Norris laboured in getting past Russell and Hamilton even with a tyre offset.

Given that Norris made it clear post-race that he still sees the drivers' title as being in play, there was a 14-point swing that eluded him today that would've made that prospect a lot more real.

And McLaren, too, should be irritated not to have outscored Red Bull. - VK

WINNER: MAX VERSTAPPEN

Another hard-fought victory where Max Verstappen arguably made the difference. He kept his foot in when it mattered at the start and passed George Russell during those crucial opening laps - avoiding the frustration that befell Norris throughout the first stint.

Verstappen is clearly (and rightly) concerned about how close McLaren is. It looked like the faster race car versus the Red Bull but crucially Red Bull still has *just* enough to keep it in check.

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Photo The Race

On the evidence of the last few weekends, Verstappen's unlikely to have many more comfortable Sundays so keeping Norris out of DRS distance throughout the race is probably as low-stress as it will get this season now. - JS

LOSER: SERGIO PEREZ

Perez's Red Bull extension is ageing like spilt milk on the hot Barcelona asphalt.

Front-limited through the main sessions of the weekend and overall still seeking a balance that works for him through the speed range, Perez cannot escape the fact he was the most roundly beaten team-mate in F1 this weekend.

His race was conditioned by qualifying and the Montreal penalty he was blameless for, and there's some sympathy for struggling to overtake the straightline speed machine that is the Haas in the early going, but only some.

When you're six tenths off your team-mate, this is what a weekend usually looks like. And when the car is not dominant, this is not sustainable. - VK

WINNER: MERCEDES

At three tenths off pole over a 71-second lap and 18 seconds off the win on what was basically the same strategy as the winner, Mercedes has had better F1 weekends - that much is clear.

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Photo The Race

Its return, for now, is a return to respectability, by Mercedes' own standards, rather than a definite sign of the Silver Arrows juggernaut rising from its slumber. And it's being aided by Ferrari seemingly losing half a step.

But it's genuinely felt at the races this weekend, which was supposed to be the moment of truth after the optimism of Monaco and Montreal was tempered by the very specific nature of both circuits.

It was good enough to lead at the start, and it was good enough to fight, if not to win those fights.

And, for all the consternation about George Russell's 'rough-around-the-edges'-ness on Sundays and Lewis Hamilton's defeats on Saturdays, it has two drivers who are very closely matched and are letting it know every weekend where its car really is. - VK

LOSER: OSCAR PIASTRI

Piastri had been building some serious momentum in a season that started so-so, and that momentum came to a screeching halt this weekend.

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Photo The Race

Norris was doing things with the MCL60 this weekend that Piastri was not able to do. His race is hard to get a read on given the circumstances of grid position, but his qualifying was poor even before the spin.

In terms of performance range, Piastri needs to raise the floor. He still has a weekend or two in him where Norris blows him out of the water, which is totally fine for a second-year driver as long as the peaks are there.

But it means he's on this side of this column today. - VK

WINNER: ALPINE

Even on this, Alpine's most competitive showing of 2024, Pierre Gasly was quick to point out on Saturday that he qualified fourth in last year's corresponding session at Barcelona.

So there's still a bit of a way to go for this year's performance to look as respectable as last year's.

But Alpine has had its fair share of kickings this year and this really isn't the day to be giving it another one. Even if its 2024 car had hit the kind of performance targets that might have been expected pre-season, best-of-the-rest is probably where Alpine would expected to be and it held that tag comfortably all weekend - crucially following up its double-Q3 appearance with a double-points finish.

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Photo The Race

Were two more points on offer, had Pierre Gasly resisted a last-lap Perez pass? Maybe. Should Alpine be aiming for more? Undoubtedly.

But that's three races in a row in the points, which suggests there's a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

Considering all the off-track talk about its future this week, Alpine will be glad its on-track performance has done some talking. The biggest task now is ensuring it understands why it was so good here with a car that had no upgrades and that was expected to perform poorly. - Jack Cozens

LOSER: ALPINE'S MISFIRING RIVALS

One swallow doesn't make a summer - but then Alpine's Spanish GP double-points finish isn't a one-off.

Considering it pulled off this result without any real understanding of why it was quick at Barcelona and now has a bit of midfield momentum, even in this most underwhelming of Alpine seasons you'd now expect it to pull clear of the basement battle it has been part of so far in 2024.

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Photo The Race

And that's obviously bad news for all the teams that had hoped for a scalp this season.

Haas will feel that way - though it actually had a decent run with Nico Hulkenberg, who came close to nicking 10th from Esteban Ocon (on the road at least). So too will the still point-less Sauber - though it too had some reason for encouragement for a change with Zhou Guanyu's run to 13th.

But Williams was absolutely nowhere all weekend, and its race was most notable for Alex Albon's angsty back-and-forth with the pitwall following his late-race off through the gravel at Turn 3.

Lap 61

Alex Albon: "What the hell was that?"

James Urwin: "All OK from our side."

AA: "No, it's not OK. Don't just say that."

Lap 64

JU: "So we see some front wing damage but we just had a look to get..."

AA: "Yeah, well what was the problem with the car? I don't care about front wing damage."

JU: "So at the moment we just think it was locking, but we're checking."

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Photo The Race

JU: "Alex, we are still looking at it."

RB's a slightly different case given it's been a regular points-scorer and is a fair chunk ahead of Alpine still, though on what was its worst race day of the season it had very little to shout about, save for Daniel Ricciardo's late burst up to 15th.

Its performance is cause for concern not just because of how far from contention RB was with its upgrade package but because of how bullish it had been heading to Barcelona.

Yuki Tsunoda said pre-weekend RB was "excited to see more aero-efficient tracks" because "if you perform well here, it means your aerodynamics are good" and added that the team "feel confident". Yet he ended up a distant 19th, ahead only of the beleaguered Logan Sargeant - who looked well adrift all weekend, having complained on Saturday the lighter Williams floor that was supposed to bring him parity with Albon was "underperforming". - JC

LOSER: ASTON MARTIN

On the evidence of this weekend, the return to form Aston Martin enjoyed in the wet-dry Canadian GP looks like an anomaly rather than anything more consistent.

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Photo The Race

Here it was back to patchy performance at best - as the car never looked like a threat for points.

Fernando Alonso insisted on Saturday that Aston was "more confident than we have been in the previous months" that it's found the development direction to right its course.

But he also conceded that there's "a bit more pain to go through" before then at the next three or four races - all at a time when Alpine is "getting better and we're getting worse". - JC

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